Air pollution caused 80,000 deaths across Mumbai & Delhi in 2015, cost Rs 70,000 crore

Air pollution caused 80,000 deaths across Mumbai & Delhi in 2015, cost Rs 70,000 crore
Representational Image. Courtesy: PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images

A total of 80,665 adults, aged over 30 years, have died prematurely in Mumbai and Delhi due to air pollution in the year 2015, according to a new study by the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), air pollution causes over 5 lakh premature deaths annually in India.

Apart from the loss in human life, air pollution in the two metros also cost the country a staggering $10.66 billion (approximately Rs 70,000 crore) in 2015, an estimated 0.7 percent of India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The IIT-B study, reported by the TOI, also said that the impact on health and productivity, as a result of exposure to pollution and the consequent burden of respiratory ailments, rose with every passing decade.

The researchers calculated the impact of pollution using data on PM10 (fine particulate matter measuring 10 microns), population and death rates.

Since Delhi was more polluted than Mumbai, it recorded more premature deaths due to ingestion of PM10 from vehicle exhaust, construction dust and other industrial processes.

The casualties in Delhi rose from 19,716 in 1995 to 48,651 in 2015. In comparison, the figure rose from 19,291 to 32,014 in 20 years in Mumbai.

In the financial capital, air pollution was also responsible for 2.3 crore cases of restricted activity days (RAD), implying either less productive days or days off work for individuals in the year 2015.

Individuals with respiratory ailments made 64,037 emergency room visits in 2015 due to the worsening air quality, an increase of about 35.4 percent from 1995.

In the nation’s capital, the there were 2.9 crore cases of RAD and 1.2 lakh emergency room visits in 2015.

According to the study’s lead author, Kamal Jyoti Maji, the impact of air pollution on health and productivity was evident in that the increase in cases and cost after 2005 was in line with the overall trend in pollution.

The study found that the economic cost of PM10 exposure rose by around 60 percent in Mumbai, from $2.68 million in 1995 to $4.26 billion in 2015. Cost to Delhi in the corresponding period jumped by 135 percent to $6.39 billion.

One measure of health and longevity is called ‘Disability Adjusted Life Years’ (DALY), representing years lost due to various illness.

This measure for illnesses caused by air pollution doubled in Delhi between 1995 and 2015 from 3.4 lakh to 7.5 lakh DALY. In Mumbai, that figure rose from 3.4 lakh to 5.1 lakh DALYs in the same period.

To keep to current health outcomes in 2030, PM10 levels would have to decline by 44 percent in Mumbai and 67 percent in Delhi, the study added.

The IIT study was published recently in the Environmental Science and Pollution Research Journal, and authored by research scholar Maji, IIT Bombay professor Anil Dikshit and Ashok Deshpande from the Berkeley Initiative in Soft Computing, USA.

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